2002 Civil Rights Report: Stereotypes and Civil Liberties

Executive Summary

Data gathered for this report demonstrate that Muslims in the United States are more apprehensive than ever about discrimination and intolerance. U.S. government actions after September 11, 2001, alone impacted more than 60,000 individuals. Muslims have charged that the government’s actions violated the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution because they included ethnically and religiously-based interrogations, detentions, raids, and closures of charities.

In addition, the daily experiences of Muslims in schools, workplaces, public areas, and airports have often included incidents in which they were singled out, denied religious accommodation and otherwise discriminated against by reason of actual or perceived religion and ethnicity. In the past year CAIR received 1,516 complaints from community members, which represents a three-fold increase over the previous year. Individual claims reported directly to CAIR affected the lives of more than 2,250 people; most were subjected to incidents of bias-motivated harassment and violence. Unlike any other past crisis, the post-September 11 anti-Muslim backlash has been the most violent, as it included several murders.

Excluding the September 11 backlash incidents, this year’s normal reporting period contains 525 valid complaints, up from 366 in 2000/2001–a 43 percent increase. These incidents included the termination or denial of employment because of religious appearance; the refusal to accommodate religious practices in the workplace, schools, and prisons; the singling out of individuals at airports because of their distinct names, appearances, and travel destination; the detention or interrogation of Muslims by federal and local authorities based on profiling criteria; and the denial of services or access to public accommodation facilities because of religious or ethnic identity. All of these experiences have common elements of setting religious and ethnic features of Muslim life or Muslim religious and political views apart from what is considered normal and acceptable. The fallout from the September 11 attacks continues to impact Muslim daily life in several ways, especially at airports and ports of entry. FBI agents and other local law enforcement authorities have sometimes responded to hearsay reports, and conducted raids and interrogations of legal immigrants and citizens. While the government has defended such actions as necessary for national security, none of these actions led to the arrest of terror suspects. Instead they disrupted the ability of thousands of Muslims to practice their religion freely, negatively impacted the careers and hopes of many individuals, and threatened democratic freedoms and the rule of law.

Two particularly encouraging developments are noteworthy. First, on April 3, 2002, a federal judge in Detroit, Michigan ruled that the Bush administration’s policy of closed immigration hearings was unconstitutional. The ruling came in the case of Rabih Haddad, who had overstayed his immigration visa. In another case involving a hate crime, a Dallas, Texas jury convicted Mark Stroman for the murder of Vasudev Patel last October. Storman thought the Hindu man looked Middle Eastern and killed him to avenge the attacks on New York and Washington.